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Beckenham Boy
20-03-2006, 09:27 AM
As good as ever....

Long and short of it
Aki Riihilahti explains why intricate passing is no more exciting than hoofing the ball clear

IF GROUCHO MARX ISNíT funny, he doesnít exist. A Paul Daniels show without magic is worth just a beautiful assistant. Take Denise Richardsís looks away and she would have to learn how to act.

In entertainment industry, if you donít please your audience, there is someone or something else that fills that hole immediately. Football is ultimately part of the entertainment industry, where people pay to get an experience. So do I have to every Saturday pull a rabbit out of the hat or make an academy award-winning dramatic performance? Do I exist if I donít always play fluent football? When ball drops to you in your own half and you are quite sure you could chip it sideways to your own player, why donít you? Because there is a small chance of an interception or a miss-pass, so instead you choose the safest option and clear it long. Boring, negative and definitely not entertaining, you can even get booed for that. However, even the best centre half in the world, John Terry, does it without hesitation. The entertainment question doesnít have a straightforward answer in football.

A fan comes to a game to see something he canít do himself ó otherwise he might feel cheated. It is justified to expect a skill, performance, physical or mental strength beyond the local park in return for the price of a ticket. All athletes are performers, which is the reason why they are there. In ideal world, the game situation would be a platform for all players to show all their skills. It doesnít quite work like that. Showing skills and producing results are football entertainmentís Jekyll and Hyde dilemma.

When the springtime comes, if it ever does in England, the points seem to be worth even more. Teams either need points for winning a trophy, winning a promotion or beating relegation. Entertainment canít get you there. Only points can.

Lots of entertainment values are sacrificed in the altar of required points tally. The need justifies almost anything. Except losing. Negative approach and shaky performances will do, as long as the scoreboard does the entertaining.

This often turns it into a percentage game. You win 1 per cent. Track your runner at final third. Another per cent. Smell the danger even in possession. One per cent. Donít overpass at wrong areas. One per cent. Keep it simple. One per cent. Donít lose your concentration in the box. One per cent. Take that extra yard to be in shape. One per cent. Freeze the game when needed. One per cent.

And so on.

Sometimes there just arenít any flair and magic available. So the results come from winning the percentages. Small things add up ó all the one percentages make a big difference. It is a platform for winning football. Winning football is a platform for entertaining football.

At the end of the season the importance of the games makes even Champions League dull. Avoiding mistakes instead of expressing yourself often means flair players are substituted by solid ones. When it counts, there is nothing is more agonising than cheap giveaways and mistaken back-heel passes. Mistakes cost goals. Rarely there is any more a goal ŗ la Barcelona, where after strings of passes someone puts the ball into the net.

It is a quicker and more clinical approach, especially with the English post-winter conditions. Donít get me wrong, this is not an excuse for anybody playing poor, kick-and-wish football. If we could win and play like Barcelona, we all would love that. However, you got to win the percentages first to earn the right to play. Just ask which supporters are happier at the moment, Real Madrids or Boltons? What is there now for entertainment, then? Nail-biting and potential strokes are the answer! At least I can quite confidently say my team Crystal Palace is not a boring club. Every season there seem to be big stakes of either going up or down until the last minutes. Rarely this club have offered mid-table boredom but often tested with non-consistent results the condition of supportersís nerves and hearts.

Perceptions vary more than ever. Everything is either black or white. Criticism or praise has no patience. The nervousness and expectations are too intense for being objective. The time is running out. We get carried away and emotional with results. The loss is never as catastrophic as we make it or the win as brilliant as we praise about.

At important times overreacting is easy. The last few rounds there are rarely opinions that arenít in the far end of the scale. In a sick twisted way, this all is entertainment.

As surprising it might sound, even though Iím a footballer I have an opinion too. I think there is room for both percentage and flair football. And you need both equally at all times. I finally made up my mind on this after following Evertonís progress this season. I might be way off here, but as football is about opinions, this is mine.

Everton bought lot of good footballers during the summer but in my humble view they only got back to their winning football when Alan Stubbs returned. He might lack some qualities that other great players have, but he wins all the percentages there are and gives the team a solid platform. I think there is no question whether it is a more entertaining club now when he is back, although his job often is not glamorous and unnoticed.

What is entertainment in professional football? At its best it is individual skills of Rooney. Daring to showboat like Joe Cole. Tactical awareness of Bolton. Crisp passing combinations of Arsenal. Everything that Ronaldinho does. Crunching tackles of Carragher. Unnoticed percentage football of Stubbs. Taking part and singing with the fans.

Endless speculation of the game from everyone. This is what we love about the game. However, most supporters, all players and managers would sacrifice all this to get three ugly points this time of the season.

Itís about finding the right balance at right times between importance of the scoreline and performances.

There should always be both entertaining and winning element in the game. The best teams and players possess both. Others must choose which way to lean in their game. My first ever coach said to me: ďYou got to play how you look like, ugly, because that is for you the best way to win ó which you have to in this profession.Ē

So I had to leave my bag full of tricks to training-ground laughs, school presentations and possibly a career in circus after football and turn into a midfield enforcer. The end product is more important than any applause. So my trick and existence in this entertainment industry is mainly dependent of the scorelines. Still, I much rather take that than having moustache like Groucho Marx.

wilf789
20-03-2006, 10:46 AM
Originally posted by Beckenham Boy
Teams either need points for winning a trophy, winning a promotion or beating relegation. Entertainment canít get you there. Only points can.
Lots of entertainment values are sacrificed in the altar of required points tally. The need justifies almost anything. Except losing. Negative approach and shaky performances will do, as long as the scoreboard does the entertaining. EXACTLY, if only some of the moaners on here would bear this in mind once in a while and be happy even if we win matches like Stoke away with less than brilliant football.

[QUOTE]. My first ever coach said to me: ďYou got to play how you look like, ugly.[QUOTE] :D:o

spunky
20-03-2006, 10:49 AM
Where was the SJ article yesterday :(?

davematt
20-03-2006, 10:54 AM
''However, even the best centre half in the world, John Terry''

Great minds....:lux: :D

calne eagle
20-03-2006, 10:54 AM
'Rarely this club have offered mid-table boredom but often tested with non-consistent results the condition of supportersís nerves and hearts'

How true.

I love Aki :love: :love: :love: :love:

screamingalice
20-03-2006, 11:08 AM
[QUOTE]Originally posted by wilf789
[B]EXACTLY, if only some of the moaners on here would bear this in mind once in a while and be happy even if we win matches like Stoke away with less than brilliant football.

Agree that the result at Stoke was ,oreimportant than the performance, the frustrating thing is that we have not performed with any style for most of the season.

Perhaps the reason is that far too much pressure has been put on the players by the chairman and the manager from even before the first game last August. Of course we the fans have not helped by expecting us to roll over all the teams in this division while playing smooth silky football, but despite all the pressure we still have failed to play as we know we can this year.